Flying is expensive these days. Ever since the skyrocketing price of fuel has caused the airlines to add fuel surcharges to the price of the tickets, you can double your ticket price very easily. There are budget airlines you might be able to take advantage of but even they add on extra charges.
This blog post at Helium talks about a few tips for saving money on flights, and they’re all good points, but oddly they don’t mention watching for seat sales. Most airlines have email notifications that will let you know of web specials and seat sales. If you keep on top of those, you can often get the best prices. The blog post talks about booking in advance, from 3 to6 months but quite often seat sales can come up just a month or two before you want the flight. While it’s nice to book in advance to make sure you get your seat on a popular flight, if you can be flexible on your dates, it doesn’t hurt to wait a bit closer to the dates you want to keep an eye out for seat sales.
Also, for some reason, booking the flights mid week will sometimes save you money too. I don’t know why that is but I’ve checked prices at the beginning of the week and again on, say a Thursday, and saved up to $200! It could be that the seat sale started on a Thursday but I’ve also heard this tip before, regardless. So check through different days of the week.
Don’t just depend on sites like Expedia and Travelocity, either. They don’t cover all the airlines and definitely don’t cover the budget ones. You can use that as a comparison and they will mix and match different airlines which can still be good. At least many airlines and websites these days are starting to show all the add-on costs in with the flight costs on the advertisements and initial search screens instead of giving you sticker shock when you go to purchase the ticket.
I belong to Air Canada’s points plan, Aeroplan, and I tend to stick to Star Aliance when I can. Living where I do, there is less choice for international flights and there’s a good chance I have to get routed through Toronto or Montreal which is a pain in the ass because it’s flying 2 hours backwards to get a flight to Europe. Since I mainly go to Manchester in the U.K. I pretty much always have to fly through Heathrow and Heathrow has quite high airport landing fees. That doesn’t help but there are no direct flights to Manchester from here, and only during the high season from Toronto on a charter airline if you can believe that! The second largest city in the U.K. and you have to take a knee-bruising hip-aching crowded charter flight from Toronto or Montreal to get there directly and even then, only between May and October. Not even British Airways or Virgin flies there out of Canada directly let alone Air Canada. Disgraceful!
Thus, the cost of my flight is always that little bit more for having to transfer through Heathrow coming and going no matter which airline I use and which route I take. Between that and the fuel surcharge, a seat sale off season flight that might cost $399 still ends up costing $1000! It’s very rare these days to get a flight much less than that to England. I might save a little flying through the U.S. but there’s two problems with that. One is the excessive security and one is the fact that, as with Toronto, I have to fly 90 minutes to 2 hours west to fly east over the Atlantic.
Can you ever get free tickets? In this day and age, there’s almost always a catch. Even frequent flyer miles aren’t really free anymore. I remember when they were but most of them now make you pay the fuel surcharges and taxes so a “free” ticket can still cost you hundreds. That’s not very fair is it? I bet if you won tickets in a contest, you’d still have to pay those blasted fees. Free is free in my books but the airlines have us all hostage. But I have booked a hotel room on points in the recent past and that was completely free so keep that in mind, too, to use those points.
There’s another website I belong to that sends out a weekly email newsletter. It’s called Travelzoo and they have sites for a few different countries for deals in your area. They search around and present you a list of great deals, some last minute and some for limited time only, on flights, hotels and packages. They point you to where you need to go and you may also get a discount code to use when booking, if needed. I’ve booked great prices on hotel rooms from them a couple of times and have seen very good flight and package prices. They can really be worthwhile keeping your eye on.
So what’s the answer? Lots of comparison shopping. If you don’t mind charter airlines, that’s a good option. Fly late at night or early in the morning. I don’t mind arriving at my destination late at night on the way home but I don’t like losing a whole day on my holiday arriving late getting there. Sign up with various airlines or websites like Travelzoo for email notifications of sales. Fly outside of the summer high season if you can. And hope that we might see instant Star Trek like transporters in our lifetime!